Birmingham Back to Backs on Hurst Street
The Birmingham Back to Backs, a complex of four restored houses, extends from Hurst Street to Inge Street. They are the last surviving example of this nineteenth-century construction type in the city. Restored by the Birmingham Conservation Trust, since July 2004, they are now a museum operated by the National Trust.
A number of architectural details survive in the buildings on Hurst Street, as old as lintels of 1790s design and including an automobile showroom and a large Fisher & Ludlow automobile factory from the 1930s.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Hurst Street was the centre of Birmingham's Jewish community, with most Jewish immigrants to Birmingham living in slums around Hurst Street. The Hebrew National School was replaced by a new building on Hurst Street in 1843. Courses for 85 boys included Hebrew and Hebrew literature in addition to the customary school curriculum. The school relocated and the building was demolished in 1856.
The Unitarian Association for the Midland Counties (later the Birmingham Unitarian Domestic Mission Society) built a chapel known as the Hurst Street Domestic Mission on Hurst Street in 1844. It had schoolrooms beneath the chapel, and additional schoolrooms behind the chapel were added later. Its large central room became known as the People's Hall, where free lectures were held. The school's efforts to educate the city's poorest children were praised by the Inspector of Schools in the 1850s.
Immigrants from Hong Kong moved into the area around Hurst Street in the decades following World War II, and by the 1980s the area was recognized as the city's Chinese Quarter. The area is also known as the Gay Village and the annual celebration of Birmingham Pride is centred on Hurst Street.
In May 2009, the Birmingham City Council approved a £530,000 environmental improvement scheme to enhance Hurst Street and its surroundings, including the extension of street trees to the full length of Hurst Street, widening pavements to create space for café bars to provide outdoor seating, and brighter street lighting with decorative lanterns.
- >BBC: David Parker, "Chinese People in Birmingham: A Brief History by Dr. David Parker," January 2003, accessed 19 March 2012
- National Trust: Birmingham Back to Backs, accessed 17 March 2012
- BBC: "Back to Backs - Hurst Street/Inge Street," September 2004, accessed 17 March 2012
- Andy Foster, Birmingham (Yale University Press/Pevsner Architectural Guides, 2005), 29, 201, 203, 205
- Birmingham Post & Mail: Malcolm Dick, "A Haven from Persecution," 2000, accessed 17 March 2012
- Jewish Year Book, 5668-9 (London: Greenberg & Co., 1907), 150, available online, accessed 17 March 2012
- Jeremy Reginald Buckley Taylor, The Architectural Medal: England in the Nineteenth Century (British Museum Publications, 1978), 117
- Joseph Priestley, An Illustrated Handbook of the Presbyterian, Unitarian, and Other Liberal Christians Churches in the Midlands (Birmingham, 1904), 21, available online, accessed 17 March 2012
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- The Monthly Religious Magazine, vol. 4 (2nd series vol. 2) (Boston: Leonard C. Bowles, 1847), 95-6, available online, accessed 17 March 2012
- Minutes of the Committee of Council on Education, 1856-57 (London, 1857), 546, available online, accessed 17 March 2012
- BBC: "Walk through Time," October 2004, accessed 19 March 2012
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- The Atlas and Guide of Birmingham (Collins Bartholomew Ltd, 1924), republished as A Guide to Birmingham 1924 (Mapseeker Archive Publishing, 2011)